Saturday, December 31, 2011

Plans firming up for 2012…


We really enjoyed having our daughter visit us for ten days while we are down here in beautiful and warm Bonita Springs, Florida. She has now returned back to her much colder home so it is time for us to firm up our plans for where we are going to stay for the remaining months of winter…

2011-12-15 Everglades Fl 058Today is our last day to stay on the spot we are on now in Bonita Lake RV Resort. We just have to move to a different spot in the same park for our last six days stay here. We will leave this park on January 7th, 2012 and take the motorhome northwards to Seminole Campground. We finally decided that we really wanted to spend another month in southwest Florida (even though it is out of our budget) so we have booked a month long stay at Seminole Campground.

2011-12-15 Everglades Fl 023However, before we stay for a month at Seminole Campground we will be storing our motorhome in their park for two weeks. We are going back for another visit to the Florida Keys. We will be visiting friends who have a place down in the keys and stay with them for two weeks before returning back to Seminole Campground. We will leave the keys on January 21,2012 and stay for a month at Seminole Campground from January 21 to February 21.

2011-12-15 Everglades Fl 060By February 21st we hope there is little left of the cold weather. The next part of our journey remains unscheduled but we hope to spend some time in the Tampa area and then head northwards out of Florida on a slow trek. We plan to be heading out west where we will spend our 2012 spring and summer exploring the western states. On the way there we will stop by where we use to live in College Station, Texas to visit old friends and some of our favorite haunts.

It is really nice to have the plans firmed up for the winter. Now we must go buy some tamales and begin to prepare the cornbread and black eyed peas to ensure we have good luck for the upcoming new year - 2012…

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas dinner and reflections…


2011-12-25_13-17-31_844December 2011 here on the west coast of Florida has been simply divine!!! The potluck Christmas dinner we enjoyed with the rest of the campers at the park was fantastic and most delicious. The only down side to potlucks is that I always overeat…

Having our daughter come visit us this Christmas has also been wonderful. Since she has been here we have been simply lounging around most mornings after coffee and breakfast. Then after 2011-12-25_12-45-05_354lunch we usually end up at the beach most of the afternoon so our daughter can work on her tan before heading home. It has been fun showing her the lifestyle we now have… our life is pretty tough…

2011-12-25_12-44-40_516With our daughter leaving on Thursday it gives us time to reflect on our stay here in Bonita Lake RV Resort. The month has gone by fast! This resort may not be the nicest in the area but after visiting all the others around here we now know that when we come back to visit this area we may be staying at Bonita Lake RV Resort once again. What makes this park truly enjoyable is its location, proximity to the beach and its friendly people. It also helps that our favorite watering hole is within walking distance as well…

With 2012 looming in the near future it is nearly time to close this chapter called 2011. We will have to move on the first of January to another site here in the park for six days. Then we will store the motorhome to go visit friends in the Florida Keys for a couple of weeks… that will cover us till the 21st of January when we will need to get our RV back out of storage. Between now and then we hope to locate where we will stay through the end of February. Hopefully not too much further north than we are now but only time will tell.2011-12-22_16-01-28_970

Here is to hoping that everyone who reads and follows this blog has a wonderful and exiting New Year in 2012… I guess we better start thinking of what our resolutions will be…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas…

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Just a short blog from us to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and wherever each of you are may all your dreams and wishes come true in 2012 as they did for us in 2011…

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the season, and looking for future sites…


Our daughter has flown down to visit us for the holidays. We picked her up at the Fort Myers airport the other day and she will be here through Christmas. It is fantastic that she is able to visit us during our time here in Florida. This Christmas will be the first time ever for us to be able to go to the beach and wear shorts outside if we want too.

388168_10150433052771139_550561138_8585629_1319032038_nOf course the first place she wanted to go was to the beach… so yesterday was a delightfully sunny and warm beach day. There was a bit more chop to the normally placid gulf coast waters and there was a lot more activity at the beach. I guess there are a lot of sons and daughters visiting their parents as the average age on the beach has gone way down over the last week as well. Parking was also a bit harder to find… so it must be nearing Christmas.

At the beach there were a lot of rays swimming very close to the shore in large groups. Hundreds of these rays could be seen as close as five feet off shore as they made quite a spectacle. It was fun watching the fins break the surface as they were frolicking in the surf. We also had the pleasure of spotting a couple of dolphins very close to the shore as well… I wonder if they feed on rays?

382867_10150433041816139_550561138_8585591_1502104129_nWith Christmas nearing it is time for us to resume our search for our next camp site which now appears to be more north of here… We have been striking out finding a nice affordable site for January or February near here. I have been spending a lot of time searching on the web and utilizing RV Park Reviews as well as a new RV review site I discovered today This site is similar to RV Park Reviews as it provides rating of peoples camping experiences. It is affiliated with the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds so we may have another useful tool for searching for site in the future if more people submit their reviews

Does anyone have any other useful sites for park reviews?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Xmas as a fulltimer…

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Even though I put out a string of Christmas lights and we put up our makeshift Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it is really hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Florida. I imagine it has much to do with the weather here in southwest Florida where we are seeing daytime temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s and 2011-12-12 FGCU and the dog beach 004overnight lows barely creeping in the upper fifties. Not to mention every evening’s sunset is outlined with the silhouettes of palm trees.

Actually I suspect it has more to do with the fact that we are doing Christmas differently now that we are retired than when we were working stiffs. So what are some of the major differences we are experiencing now compared to then?

  • we had tons more decorations inside and out of our home
  • we used to be out and about spending lots of time on several shopping trips and then in the late stages rushing out for the last minute stocking stuffers.  Instead we now are able to complete our shopping in one shopping trip to a couple of stores then finishing up using
  • we had tons of Christmas packages to wrap and put under the tree whereas now, because we are on a more tight budget, there were fewer gifts.  These gifts were wrapped, stayed under the little tree for the photo, then were quickly mailed away. 
  • we were in the late stages of planning and preparing a big feast back home by now but now instead we are attending a park-wide dinner and all we need to make is a single dish
  • we would be planning on seeing our son and his family at our house or theirs (as they lived only 100 miles away) but now we will not see them at all until we return to Texas next spring.
  • we would be attending our respective workplace Christmas parties and Sharon would most likely be buying a new outfit for each. Here we bought a bottle of Champagne to have our own little party (I’m sure Sharon will still put together a festive outfit with some of her Christmas bling).

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Those are some of the major differences for us as full timing RV’ers but the one that stands out most to us is that we don’t hear the nonstop Christmas music as much since we don’t spend a lot of time in the car with the radio on as we did in my working lives……

At least our daughter is flying down to spend part of her Christmas holiday with us. I think I might have to put on some Christmas music soon so we will know for sure that Christmas is coming…

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big Cypress National Reserve…

Mama Gator with two babies

bald cypress reflectionsBonita Springs Florida isn't real close to the everglades but that didn’t stop us from making the 150 mile round trip to Big Cypress National Reserve into the heart of the Florida Everglades . The drive to the reserve is not overly scenic along the way but once you are nearing there you can tell you are in some place special.

From the first time we first noticed the signs to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge until we saw our first alligator we knew this place was different than any we had visited before… Having studied about the everglades in college it was a pleasure to actually get to visit the place before it is completely compromised.

The continued draining of the everglades that has been ongoing since the earlyRed Maple leaves 1900s has converted much of the wetland ecosystem to land ready to be farmed or developed. It may be a necessary evil of our growing society but it is sad to see in reality nonetheless. The vast sheet of water that covered the everglades is but a remnant of what it formerly was…

The protection of the lands in this part of Florida is essential to the populations of endangered and threatened species. Not to mention these swamplands may harbor the next known cure for cancer or other diseases in one of the plant’s chemical makeup that has yet to be discovered. The beauty of the remaining wetlands and the density and diversity of the flora and fauna found in this area are all testaments to the pioneers who have helped preserve this land.

BromiliadsThe Big Cypress National Reserve has several nice hiking trails and interpretative boardwalks that visitors can enjoy. There are also a couple of roadside parks that RV’ers can reserve and boondock in. We drove through them and they are nice and quiet parks and at this time of the year only had a few guests. If you are looking for a quiet and scenic place to boondock going from Miami to Fort Myers or visa versa this is a nice place to stop for a few days to explore the everglades from. But watch out for the ever present skunk apes

nice teeth...NOTE: Hovering your mouse over a picture will identify what you are looking at and if you want to see a larger picture just click on the image…

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bonita Beach Dog Park…

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With the exquisitely warm weather we have been having we decided to get out for a little drive and explore more of the area around us. So off we drove towards Little Hickory Island and once we crossed the bridge to it we were surrounded by the large opulent but brightly painted homes adorning the beautiful white sand beaches.

2011-12-12 FGCU and the dog beach 010A short pleasant drive past the homes and the various beach accesses you cross another bridge which takes you towards Fort Meyer Beach and Lovers Key State Park. Access to the park’s manned beach access is $4.00 per person at the main gate but only $2.00 per person at a “self pay station” at the north end of the park. But just before you get into Lovers Key State Park you will notice a pullout alongside the road where several cars may be parked. What you will find here is a “dog beach” better known as Bonita Beach Dog Park.

2011-12-12 FGCU and the dog beach 012They have set aside a special beach area for those who want to take their dog(s) off leash and let them just run and play with all the other dogs. We are currently pet-less but we have had several dogs in our adult lives and both had cats in our childhood. We have just found that the RV lifestyle that we wanted is better accomplished pet-less. The lack of a friendly companion was traded for a bit more freedom and a lot less responsibility.

But since we are dog and cat lovers we felt it would be a fun experience to visit the dog park and see what goes on there… When we first pulled up we were a bit worried that this might be an adult dog only park since there was a huge banner announcing that there was “hot dogs” in the park… :)

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Instead, what we found was a bunch of furry critters romping around chasing each other and frolicking in the surf as children would. There were dogs chasing each other, dogs chasing balls, dogs digging in the sand, dogs chasing frisbees and dogs just being dogs…

2011-12-12 FGCU and the dog beach 008

It really is nice that they have set aside a special place for dog owners and their dogs to have a place to run foot loose and fancy free without offending those folks who take offense to dogs in general. The beach is just a small strip of white sand surrounded by mangroves but it is ample in size so that dogs have plenty of room to play. If you have a dog and are in the area I would highly recommend you that you stop by this beach, pull up a beach chair and spend some quality time with your furry friend…

Since we didn’t have a furry friend we simply enjoyed watching those that did! After having too much fun at the dog park we started to head back to our RV park but got side tracked at a place called the Fish House. Since it was happy hour we decided to check it out. Fantastic happy hour there with $1.25 domestic drafts and four food items on a special happy hour menu all only six bucks… (including a half pound boiled ship or ten wings). Nice place for a stop when going home from the beach…

Monday, December 12, 2011

The “Haves” are here…

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We have traveled a lot many miles and to all of the states along the east coast over the past nine and a half months and one thing we have always noticed is that the state of our 2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 036economy seems to have impacted the lower and middle classes to a greater extent than it has the wealthy or the “haves”…

Throughout the southeast we noticed a lot of businesses and properties have been boarded up and listed for sale due to bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sales. We have seen a lot of run down areas in the east. It is sad for America to have degraded to such a state that it is slowly destroying the most important building block of the country – the working 2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 004middle class.

However, when we walk along the beaches and in particular the beaches in southern Florida it becomes obvious that all the people in America are not suffering. The economy down here in the Bonita Springs and Naples area seems more robust than most of what we have seen in our travels. Strip malls are still being built and most of the area looks vibrant and energized with few signs that our economy is a bit disheveled.

2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 007This takes us back to the homes along the beaches here in southern Florida… These properties start at near $2,000,000 and go way up from there. The houses in these photos are examples of such properties. These homes appear, for the most part, to not be lived in annually and thus are likely “winter retreats for the haves”… must be nice, Huh?

A lot of hubbub has been in the news lately that the “haves” have not been paying 2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 030their fair share of taxes because they are creative enough to tax shelter much or all of their income. When you look at these magnificent properties along the beaches of southern Florida you can only wonder who is living in these homes. Are they doing anything we wouldn’t do if the government allowed us to do so?

But there is no reason to muddle my post retirement thoughts since we never made it out of the working middle class… We were once envious of these people and wanted to excel in our lives for the chance opportunity to be like them. Now the only thing we are envious about are their infinity pools since we are able to enjoy their same backyard views and beaches without having all their property expenses and all their stuff…

2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 029You know they may only be the “haves” because they have most of the stuff.It is interesting to note when we talk with some of  these “haves” that they are jealous of us and our lifestyle. Jealous of us??? What do we have that they don’t have??? We have freedom to do what we want to do when we want to do it… and of course we have all this while having so little responsibility and so little stuff.  Maybe we do have way more than they could ever have in their current lifestyles…

Maybe we are the true “haves” in America…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Greyhound Races and Naples Florida…

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We were looking for something different to do in the area and we noticed that there was a greyhound racing track nearby and that on two nights during each month they had “DOLLAR NIGHT”… that meant that race programs, hotdogs, popcorn and draft beers were only one dollar American!!! I use to go to the greyhound races when I was in the Air Force in Rapid City, South Dakota and remembered having a fun night when all us guys went out.

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When I mentioned to Sharon about the dog track she said she did want to go since she had never been to one before. So it was a done deal… we were off to the races. We got there a bit late2011-12-06 bonita springs florida 043 but there was no fee for parking and only $2.00 per person entry. So with the one dollar program we started off $5.00 out of pocket… 3 hotdogs and 2 beers later we were out $11.00. We had some work to do to break even on the day. We watched a total of 13 races and bet on 9 of them with our our wagers ranging from 2-6 dollars each race. We actually did pretty well at the track winning several bets with the whole day costing us less than eight bucks… despite having’s muchos cervezas!!!

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The next day we had a date with some other bloggers Jeannie and Eldo of Where’s Eldo fame in Naples Florida about 25 minutes south of our park. We spent some 2012-12-08 Naples Florida 006time on the way down checking out other RV parks in the neighborhood for potential camping places for January… we will be site-less unless we find something soon.

The parks we checked out were less than satisfactory or didn’t have any availability for January so it was on to down town Naples. We were to meet our soon to be friends at the Jolly Cricket which is a fine British Pub/Restaurant.They have a nice happy hour 2012-12-08 Naples Florida 011($2.50 pints) and a great atmosphere. We walked up to the front of the bar and we recognized them right away from pictures in their blog.

With introductions out of the way we shared lots of stories about our RV travels and our trials and tribulations about locating future sites in the area for the rest of the winter. After happy hour we walked down the street on 5th Avenue to partake in the music scene (Evening on the Fifth) held on the streets in downtown Naples every second Thursday of every month (they provide free musicians along the shopping area).

I can tell you right now they had some very talented musicians there… we were strolling along the Christmas lit store fronts listening to an array of musicians when we came upon a band called Soundcheck and let me tell you, they could flat out play!!! Their upbeat sound along with the perfect weather that night combined with an amazing young fellow who could cut a rug better than Fred Astaire to the delight of the crowd made for a captivating evening. Sharon and Jeanie were out dancing up a storm while Eldo and I tried to look nonchalant holding their purses…

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We had a grand time… great music, great weather, fun times at happy hour and great company with our new friends Jeanie and Eldo…. Thanks you two for showing us a great time in Naples!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Barefoot Beach…

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The last few days have been some really lazy days of lounging around the house till lunch and then venturing over to the beach about 10 minutes west of here. The weather here has been absolutely fantastic as we have had overnight lows in the sixties and highs in the low eighties… perfect beach weather.

Sea Grape Back where we use to live in Texas they had a hard freeze the last few nights which is pretty unusual there in early December. The weather forecasters here have been forecasting a cold snap starting today as they are calling for a low of 50 and a high of only 72…. Now this is how cold should be properly defined to retired people!!! The closest thing we have seen of fall here in Florida is the colors on the coastal Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera)

Black SkimmersThe days are filled with me waking to the sounds of pileated woodpeckers in the pine grove on the far side of the park followed by a beautiful sunrise. At the beach we are serenaded by the sound of the infrequent but periodic waves lapping the sandy shore depositing sea shells with each pass. The beach we go to is loaded with shells of every pastel hue known to mankind and these beaches also serve as resting spots for the various birds found near and off the sea shore in southwestern Florida.

footprints in the saandThe extent of my exercise lately has been the long strolls we take along the surf while examining the shells left behind by the sea. Occasionally a nice find will be discovered, examined, photographed, enjoyed and then left for the next person to discover it do it all over again…

There are some very fancy homes here along the beach some of which are rumored to be owned by movie stars and the like. But when we are on the beach with the sound of the surf it seems as if it is just us, the sand, the shells and the birds here on our beach along with a few others walking the same path as us…

You see there are many of us in Florida whom are enjoying our lives here, on the road of retirement…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bonita Lake Resort–Bonita Springs Florida

Houses along the beach

We made the tough 20 mile drive south to Bonita Lake Resort where we will stay for the month of December. I mentioned that we were looking forward to the sleepier town of Bonita Springs and after being here for a few days we do like the more laid back atmosphere here. There are some nice white sand beach accesses about 10 minutes away and the parking here at these accesses is free instead of two dollars per hour… that is a nice plus.

our site in Bonita Lake RV ResortThe park is a medium sized RV park with a mixture of some park models and RV’s. There are about 165 sites and the management appears to be be actively managing the park and adding improvements. The $698 monthly rate is higher than we hoped to get for the month but it pales in comparison to their January rate of $1250 per month. Needless to say we will be leaving before the rate increase in January. Monthly's also pay for metered electricity and the place offers free WIFI but no cable.

out our window viewOur front yard view is spectacular but the channel in front offers some impromptu birding opportunities. The first thing we did when we got here was doing some general cleaning and laundry in the onsite laundry room. The next day found us lounging on the white sandy beach for a couple of hours.The beach was very sparsely populated for a Friday afternoon so this may be a good sign. I saw a fellow fishing who was from Massachusetts and he was catching a few whiting. The diving Brown Pelicans seemed to be catching quite a few fish just off shore so I will get to some fishing of my own later in the week.

at beach access number 2

Last night we found a nice little tavern called Buffalo Chips where we had a The best ice cream in the world - Blue Bellfew adult beverages during happy hour. A lively establishment who claims to have great wings and from the amount of people in the place ordering them we will have to try them out anther day.

Our initial impression of this area is positive enough that we are sure we will enjoy our month stay… especially since we found our favorite Texas ice cream in the local area… Blue Bell!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bunche Beach Preserve is going to the birds…

Black Skimmers

Tracks in the sandWith the chilly weather hitting southern Florida we are amused at how bundled up some of the people are around the park. With highs just peeking into the seventies (Fahrenheit) there are a lot of wind breakers and jackets being donned by the residents of Siesta Bay RV Resort. So what do we do on such a chilly day?

Why we go to the beach, of course… When we leave this park the one thing we will miss the most is the two mile bicycle ride along the bike paths over to Bunche Marbled GodwitBeach Preserve. This may not be one of the nicest beaches around but that fact that it lies among the mangroves make it a fun spot to take in a little birding while relaxing and enjoying the beach.

Yesterday we headed out for the beach and the bike ride was a little tougher that it had been previously since we were riding into a pretty stiff headwind. Before you reach the beach there is a pull out with a couple of small boardwalks and perches over the mangrove swamp. While here one day I saw a soaked and gangly raccoon meandering across the road heading into the mangroves. I also saw a beautiful Yellow Crowned Night Heron fly in and sit just across from me on a mangrove until he finally spotted me and took off.


The pullout is a great spot to just sit, relax and watch the goings on. A large alligator gar was floating by while I was fishing one day. It was right on the surface and floating along with the current of the outgoing tide. Fishing was not very productive that day but watching wildlife was very successful.

Short billed dowitcher, solitary sandpiper, dunlin, sanderling

Past the pullout a short ways down the road is the beach and some roadside parking (fees for parking). We road our bicycles onto the beach and then rode along the edge of the intertidal zone till we got to a sandbar that was crawling with shorebirds. So out plopped our blanket and out came the binoculars and camera… The diversity of shorebirds was fantastic as we saw 15 different  species and we even spotted a banded snowy plover (pictured below).

banded snowy ploverIt was just a great way to spend our last day here at the park. Today we will head twenty miles south to Bonita Lake Resort to stay for the month of December. If we had found this park a bit earlier we may have just stayed here for the month, but that is the problem with reservations as they commit you to a spot. We do however look forward to the sleepier town of Bonita Springs and the beaches there are only about a 10 minute drive away. I am sure we will survive and tough it out in Bonita Springs…

NOTE: Hovering your mouse over a picture will identify what you are looking at and if you want to see a larger picture just click on the image…